Review Summary: Arcade Fire make a name for themselves with a stunning and revolutionary album that reaches out to each and every person who has endured emotional turmoil.
Arcade Fire was a band that I originally discovered by word of mouth. For an indie band, these guys were gaining a lot of attention. Naturally, I couldn't resist checking them out, and I immediately fell in love with the band. Funeral, the band's debut studio album, presents a well-rounded sound with a prominent sense of unity. Not often is a communal effort so compelling and sensational. Thus, Funeral will go down in history as a definitive album with a clear vision and identity.
One trait that really sticks out on Funeral is the multitude of instruments used to craft something poignant, passionate, and inspiring. Arcade Fire does incorporate the elements of a rock band with guitars, drums, and bass, but many of the tracks are adorned with violin, accordions, french horns, piano, cellos, and more. These instruments give the album an orchestral feel, marked by a grand presence of musical composition and ambition. Furthermore, Win Butler and Régine Chassagne deliver moving lyrics that evoke reminiscence and contemplation. The lyrics reach out to the listener, empowered by instrumentation of colossal proportions.
The symphonic arrangement of the LP makes the album's small-world themes to feel larger than life. The splendor of childhood is explored throughout while ideas of death casually permeate the album. Interpreting this album becomes less challenging with multiple listens, but there is always an aura of wonder that never fades.
"Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)" examines the struggles of youth in a small town. The song opens with ethereal pianos charged with anticipation. Butler's passion surges through his lyrics as the song picks up in volume and scale. "Neighborhood #2 (Laika)" pulsates with punchy drumming that complements the eccentric rhythm. "Une Année Sans Lumiére" tones things down through more soft-spoken vocals and gentle guitar. Nevertheless, the concept of mortality overshadows the song, and the imagery is prevalent. Lyrics like "The streetlights all burnt out" puts death into the perspective of the neighborhood that connects the speaker with his surroundings.
"Neighborhood #3 (Power Out) cranks up the volume with booming instrumentation. The track is a breath of fresh air bursting with heartwarming encouragement despite hints of utter hopelessness. Again, the metaphorical significance of the song leaves it open to interpretation. The song's most uplifting moment comes about four minutes in when Butler sings, "And the power's out in the heart of man. Take it from your heart, put it in your hand." The lyrics demonstrate the speaker's faith in humanity's future progress in the face of a harsh and malicious society. The violin brings sensitivity to these words and gives the track unwavering vigor.
Moreover, "Neighborhood #4 (Kettles)" is another mellow and soothing performance from the band. The benevolent guitar is juxtaposed with some subtle strings that convey sadness. The lyrics are also more direct, alluding to the inevitable passage of time. "Wake Up" is a robust rocker about empty promises with a stimulating intro and strapping guitar. Also, "Haiti" is another fine vocal performance from Chassagne with a touch of reverb. Its melody is engaging and its diversified instrumentation keeps the track interesting. Overall, it is a touching account of the horrors of war and violence, presented in an understated manner.
Closing the LP is "In the Backseat", a warmhearted return to the themes of childhood and growing up. Chassagne carries a massive amount of emotion in her voice, particularly when she peaks during the chorus. As the song picks up with dynamic percussion, the presence of the entire band is felt. The track's resolution is both substantial and fulfilling.
Funeral is an immersive album that brings forth all of the band's greatest strengths as songwriters, lyricists, and composers. There is not a dull moment on this album, and each listen enhances the experience that much more. The rush of emotion on Funeral is felt with a cohesive collection of tracks. Arcade Fire does not demand respect here, but they earn it nonetheless with this groundbreaking debut album.
In the Backseat
Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)
Neighborhood #4 (7 Kettles)
Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)